Georgia Supreme Court returns to remote hearings amid COVID-19 surge

The Nathan Deal Judicial Center in downtown Atlanta, which houses the Georgia Supreme Court. (Bob Andres /

The Nathan Deal Judicial Center in downtown Atlanta, which houses the Georgia Supreme Court. (Bob Andres /

With delta variant COVID-19 cases surging, the Georgia Supreme Court has scrapped plans to have in-person oral arguments later this month.

Instead, the court’s arguments scheduled for Aug. 24-26 will be conducted remotely.

“Our court would prefer in-person oral arguments, but we have found remote oral arguments to be reasonably effective and safer for those involved with them,” Chief Justice David Nahmias said.

Since the onset of the pandemic, the court has held oral arguments virtually. The only exception was on June 9 this year, when the court sat in session hearing two appeals. The plan was to continue in-person arguments later this month. But that will not happen until mid-September at the earliest because of the virus surge.

The Georgia Supreme Court hears arguments via video conference in the case of Glenn v. The State. Top row (from left): Former Chief Justice Harold Melton, Chief Justice David Nahmias and former Justice Keith Blackwell. Middle row (from left): Justices Michael Boggs, Nels Peterson, Sarah Warren and Charles Bethel. Bottom row (from left): Justices John Ellington and Carla McMillian; public defender Ben Pearlman and then-acting District Attorney Brian Patterson.

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A statewide judicial emergency was in place from March 2020 until the end of June, but the state Supreme Court continued to allow all levels of Georgia’s courts to conduct certain proceedings remotely via video conferencing.

“We continue to encourage courts to conduct remote proceedings when it is lawful, effective and safer,” Nahmias said. “Evidentiary hearings and jury trials that must be done in person should continue with appropriate public health protections in place.”

May 7, 2019 Atlanta - Chief Justice David E. Nahmias speaks during a hearing at Georgia Supreme Court Atlanta on Tuesday, May 7, 2019. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

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The judiciary had a scare after the state’s Superior Court judges met recently for a conference in Jekyll Island. Four judges and two of their spouses came down with COVID-19 after returning home.

All who contracted the virus had been vaccinated and experienced only minor symptoms, said Judge Wade Padgett of the Augusta Judicial Circuit and president of the state Superior Court judges council.